I have been fortunate to film drifting displays and drift races from the trackside of some of the UK’s best racing circuits. Although I had seen drift cars on the TV several times before, I only saw it for myself for the first time a couple of years ago at the Japfest event at Castle Combe Circuit.
I can still remember the moment I was stood behind a tyre wall, camera at the ready, when suddenly into view came the Japspeed drift team absolutely hammering their cars sideways through the corners and yet delicately keeping them on the brink of losing control – a real art form. I had filmed at a variety of motoring events before and was well used to standing trackside with a camera but I just wasn’t prepared for the spectacle of seeing a car throwing so much smoke off the rear tyres, drifting around the corner and very quickly sliding sideways towards the tyre wall I was stood behind for protection.
I remember the first lap well as I was so blown away by what I was seeing that I didn’t get a single usable shot of any of the cars. This was partially as, like most motoring cameramen, I was assessing whether or not the car was about to completely lose control and smash into the barrier I was stood behind, and partially because I was completely amazed. The car didn’t crash and the driver held the car on the very edge of control all the way round the corner again and again. From the second lap onwards I managed to capture some exciting drifting shots and I was instantly hooked on the sport. It really is one of the most exciting forms of motorsport that you could hope to see and anything that you’ve seen on TV just doesn’t do it justice. You really need to be able to smell the tyre smoke.
I would love to have my own drift racing car to play with at weekends but it’s an expensive hobby that I simply cannot afford. That is until now. I have just seen a video showing radio controlled drift cars that replicate the excitement and feel of a real drift car – but at a fraction of the cost. As a child I saved up all my pennies and bought myself a 1/10th scale radio controlled Tamiya Boomerang which was electrically powered. It came in kit form and I had to build it myself including it’s 4 wheel drive system and differential gearbox. It was a process that was so frustrating that it almost ended with the destruction of the car altogether. I did finally get it built and the sheer speed and excitement of driving it was well worth the wait.
Many years have passed since then and technology has well and truly moved on. The modern R/C drift cars, unlike their real-world counterparts, tend to be 4WD as the scaled down structure, power, and weight of the cars really effects how they handle. Although not completely unheard of, the RWD chassis is quite rare. A common modification is to re-gear the 4WD system to push more power to the rear wheels than the front which gives a more RWD kind of feel to the driving experience. Tyres tend to be made from virtually frictionless hard plastic or rubber compounds with some enthusiasts even making their own tyres from PVC plastic piping. R/C drifting and the R/C drift cars are developing fast and it’s not that surprising that Japan is very much leading the way with new technologies.
There are a myriad of modifications to help you emulate the look and feel of your favourite drift car. The Japanese have long been enthusiastic about both drifting and R/C cars so I guess it was only going to be a matter of time before they combined the two. I for one am glad that they have because I am now desperately crawling the internet looking for my own radio controlled drift car to play with. I may not experience the sickening G-force and terror that I’d get while strapped into the seat of a real-world drift car but I know that once I have that radio control in my hand and my R/C car flying towards that first corner that I’ll be every bit as excited as I was as a young boy with my Tamiya Boomerang – but with the added bonus that I won’t have to spend weeks of frustration building this one. Watch the video now – I promise you’ll be amazed.